Magical reunion

Christmas in the Land of Oz

Adapted by Ruth Perry from the books by L. Frank Baum
Directed by Marie Ingrisano
Ryan Repertory Company
Jonathan Rosenblum Performing Arts Space in the Harry Warren Theatre
Equity waiver production (closed)
Review by Elias Stimac

Christmas in the Land of Oz is a clever adaptation by Ruth Perry from the books by L. Frank Baum. Staying true to the source material, the script contains many of the references and characters audiences have come to know and love, plus a few new ones thrown in for good measure. Here still are innocent farm girl Dorothy (sweetly enchanting Jessica Ripple), her protective kin Aunt Em (sensitive Erin McIntyre) and Uncle Henry (no-nonsense Christopher Thomas Gilkey), even Toto (in a sassy, endearing performance by Cindy Ball).

The story follows Dorothy and Toto back to Oz to get help from her newly gifted companions, who are now kings of their domains. The trio included Neil Garguilo as King Scarecrow, Chris Whyde as King Tin Woodsman, and Gilkey doing double duty as King Cowardly Lion (poor feline can't seem to shake that cowardly reputation). All three did a great job of making these timeless characters their own, while retaining a few touches from their screen counterparts.

The supporting cast also worked magic with their multiple roles: Stephanie Pedi, Amy Caitlin Carr, and in particular Carissa Cordes as the Scarecrow's right-hand woman and a sneaky winged monkey.

Unfortunately, the script is lacking in logic, conflict, and action. Adapter Ruth F. Perry doesn't make much sense out of scenes in which Dorothy does surgery on her friends and a subplot about Christmas decorations being stolen. Thankfully, director Marie Ingrisano was able to downplay the plot and focus on character and comedy, resulting in a magical blend of comic camaraderie.

The technical elements added immensely, including the smart two-tiered set by the team of Rick Rivera, Sal Caravello, Barbara Parisi, and James Martinelli, and colorful costumes and lighting by Parisi.

Sure, it may sound like a kids' show, but there were more than enough nuances for parents and adult viewers to appreciate. It is to be hoped that Christmas in the Land of Oz will become an annual tradition for Ryan Rep.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2005 Elias Stimac